O, Canada: Things we’re grateful for from the Great White North

canadian flag

Hockey, maple syrup, and dramatic chanteuses — that’s what Canada is known for, if you believe everything you’ve seen on TV!

Since today is Canada Day for our neighbo(u)rs to the north, we thought we’d hono(u)r the occasion by celebrating some of the Canadian television contributions to our viewing landscape we’re thankful for everyday.


Canada’s contributions to comedy are vast, and too many to name right here. But SCTV deserves a special mention regardless, because it was home to some of the most influential comedians in the last four decades. Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Harold Ramis… the list goes on of the stars that graced its set and continue to find homes on screens big and small on both sides of the border.

Courtesy MGM

Courtesy MGM

And without their start on SCTV, we wouldn’t have gotten Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “Kanadian Korner,” or their take on “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which you’ve heard every single holiday season since. Take off, hosers.

Degrassi… In all its iterations

The high school drama built a cult following in the US, counting director Kevin Smith among its fans. (He even played original recipe’s Kaitlin’s boyfriend in the reboot’s pilot in 2001.) It’s widely credited as being the precursor to teen dramas such as Beverly Hills 90210 south of the border, and was famous for handling taboo topics (like abortion or sexuality) along with everyday concerns like bad skin or unrequited loves, while featuring young actors who looked like the kids you’d find on your local urban streets (in Toronto). It prided itself on being more “real” than its southern counterparts, and its rough-around-the-edges quality reflected that, endearing itself to the young and young-at-heart alike. You may not realize this, but the Degrassi franchise has been around in one form or another since 1979. The current version will end its fourteen-season run this summer, but we’ve got a sneaking suspicion it won’t be too long before this show is revived somehow. (ETA: Apparently, not long at all: it’s been renewed for yet another spinoff on Netflix.  Um, some of us might not have even realize the show was even still on the air, sorry.)

Courtesy CBC

Courtesy CBC

Junior High gave us Zit Remedy in the 80s, and The Next Generation gave us Drake (yes, the Drake) in the 00s, so what kind of superstar can we expect twenty years from now?

Robin Scherbatsky

Courtesy CBS

Courtesy CBS

Our love for Robin goes deep here at TYLL, for good reason. While originally incorporated as a nod to actress’ Cobie Smulders real-life heritage, Robin’s Canadianness took on a life of its own on How I Met Your Mother. It may have started off as a joke, but Robin wore her national pride like a badge of hono(u)r, diligently correcting her friends’ misconceptions about her country — while at times fiercely reinforcing them, too. Though Canada is usually the butt of jokes south of the 49th parallel, the way the HIMYM writers treated Robin’s native land obviously came from a place of affection, for both the character and her alter ego. The 80s might not have come to Canada until 1993, but Robin rocked the hell out of them.

Besides, how could you not love a show that brought you this anthem? Robin Sparkles is the pop star we all wish we could have grown up with.

Taking one for the team (…USA)

“Hollywood North” has been standing in for locations across the US on-screen for ages. 21 Jump Street might have been one of the first American television series to shoot in Vancouver in the 1980s, but it was probably The X-Files a decade later that really put British Columbia on the map, albeit unsung. (Further demonstrating how Canadians don’t like to toot their own horn, apparently.) And thanks to the upcoming reboot of the iconic series coming up in January, we’re sure to see more lush rain forests, snow-capped mountains and clean streets standing in for the East Coast in 2016. Be still our hearts, eh?

Courtesy FoxFlash

Courtesy FoxFlash

Other recent productions in full swing in Canada include Once Upon A Time, Supernatural, Arrow, Backstrom (Sniff!), Fringe, hmm… Seems like there’s a theme here. Bring on the foggy atmosphere!

… But also providing a refuge for small-screen fugitives

Nary a season of any of the Law and Order shows goes by without at least one attempt by a criminal to head to the Canadian border and try their luck in Montreal or Winnipeg. (Maybe a winter in either of those climes will make them think twice about Rikers.) That Canada, they’re so polite they’ll even take the bad guys off their friends’ hands. It’s a wonder Canada manages to keep its peaceful reputation, because at this rate, it should be renamed Red Is The New Black.

Blame Canada, after all.

More imports than you can shake a (hockey) stick at

Canadian television tends to be the punchline down south, but there’s no denying that there’s been an upsurge in quality content from the Great White North in recent years making its way to the US mainstream. Orphan Black is a global phenomenon (one which we are sadly behind on here at TYLL, oops) rightly deserving of all its praise, Flashpoint proved Canadians could handle SWAT teams with the best of ‘em, Rookie Blue seems to be everyone’s summer fling on ABC, Bitten and Lost Girl are cornering the supernatural cable cult favo(u)rite markets, and Schitt’s Creek highlights that Canadians can make fish-out-of-water sitcoms just as funny as anything in America. The fact that there are way more shows than we can name now demonstrates the strides that have been made.

Courtesy BBC America

Courtesy BBC America

Hey, maybe some of those shows will even be allowed to say they’re set in Canada one day, too!

And finally, the talent behind the scenes that brings it together

Simply put, there would be no TV without the wonderful writers and showrunners that bring these ideas to life. SNL’s Lorne Michaels? Canadian. House’s auteur David Shore? Canadian. One of our perennial favo(u)rites here, Bones’ creator (and Backstrom’s, sniff again) Hart Hanson? Canadian. Orphan Black’s Graeme Manson and John Fawcett? Yep, you guessed it. There are dozens more out there, in all aspects of creating TV series, in front of and behind the cameras. And we’re thankful for that, because without them, we wouldn’t be here talking to you all!

So, happy birthday, Canada! May you enjoy your fine beer and maple syrup, but hopefully you don’t have to wear a toque today, eh?

(Sorry, I had to.)


What are your favo(u)rite Canadian factoids on this most Canadian of all days?



Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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